Monday, October 22, 2012

Vintage and Etsy - a Warning / Lecture

I normally stay pretty benign on my posts; but once in a while I get a hair in a bad place and have to say something.

Winter is creeping on, and I'm a big fan of vintage clothes, especially coats.  Plus, my Mom just brought me a box and a garbage bag full of old small vintage pieces some for crafting, some for resale.  I've been pouring over ebay for a bit, with a good deal of frustration, and hitting flea markets and vintage shops (I miss the thrift stores of the South - they were gold mines), and then I turned to etsy.

Holy retro metaphor in place of an expletive, Batman!  Vintage sellers on Etsy are more loony-toons than the people who run the Vintage Consignment Shops in Manhattan!!

Now, I'm not just saying this from the point of view of a buyer.  One of those life-times ago, before NYC, I dealt and studied in some great detail various bits of Vintage accessories.  My Mom was an avid and studied collector as I was growing up of certain vintage goods (mostly costume jewelry, glass, silver and china; about which I learned some).  So, really, as a warning to buyers, and as a heads-up to sellers (and just to get it off my chest so I know it's out there somewhere), let me go over a couple of points about how to tell if you are price gouging or being price gouged when it comes to vintage goods.

1.  When it comes to vintage fashion accessories, be it jewelry, coats or other, CONDITION IS EVERYTHING.  I'm sorry, your 1940's rhinestone pin that is missing a lot of stones and has a broken back is NOT worth even $20.  Likewise, your 1950's swing coat with bell sleeves and mink trim with a giant tear in the fur is NOT worth hundreds of dollars; it's not worth $50.

If a man came up to you and said, "Hey! A long time ago, I bought this diamond ring, and it was really pretty, but the stone fell out.  BUT, I paid a lot of money for it a long time ago, and that should mean something, right?" Wrong.  Would you pay it?  No! You shouldn't! And he's a fool for asking!

2.  STUDY.  Just because something is vintage doesn't mean it's automatically worth a lot of money.  There are rhinestone pieces from the 40's, that are in fine condition, but they're really not worth more than $10-$20.  They're fine pieces, great for beginners, probably small, simple, colorless, not signed.  Just because it's vintage doesn't mean you should pay $50+ for ANY item, even in good condition.  Now, if you see a red rhinestone, large, perfect condition vintage pin and you flip it over and see the name "Eisenberg" and they're asking $50, grab it! Odds are you're getting a real steal, there!  How do you know the difference?  Get a book, search the internet, the information is out there, and it's best to be an informed buyer.  You can't really expect most sellers to be scrupulous and well educated and fair (I know, I expect to much of my fellow sellers), but at least if you educate yourself in the stuff you like, you can know when to walk away.

Here's just a few random vintage points to consider:

* Vintage jewelry with missing stones, or dead stones, especially if there is no name on the piece, should be greatly discounted.

* Broken jewelry is broken jewelry.  It doesn't matter when it was from, if you can't fix it, it's not worth it.

* Torn clothes are the same way.  Most people, in regular clothes, can tell the difference between a split seam that can be repaired and disintegrating fabric that will only keep decaying into nothing.  However, for some odd reason, when it comes to vintage fur pieces, people lose their minds and don't realize that most of the time with vintage pieces, a ripped pelt = irreparable trash.  If you're lucky, you'll find a crafter who just wants to cut it up and make teddy bears out of it, anyway, but, you've got a big piece of junk, and it should be priced accordingly.

* Nothing made out of rabbit that isn't brand new should ever cost more than $50.  Rabbit skins are thin, they shed when new, and they dry out, crack, split and decay really quickly.  Never waste your money on anything rabbit skin unless it's really cheap, or you don't mind that it's most likely going to start falling apart within a year or two, tops.  The older the rabbit item is, the more likely it would be better off in a compost bin.  If you just want a little throw-away piece that you don't care if it lasts more than a season or two, and you see it for $20 or under, go ahead, grab it.  But people asking hundreds of dollars for old rabbit coats are trying to rip you off.

3.  Speaking of furs, just because it's fur doesn't mean it's worth a lot of money; or any money for that matter.  Furs are like cars, they depreciate hugely just for leaving the show room.  Within 2 years of age, furs lose 80% of their value.   You wouldn't try and sell your 10 year old car (assume 20K retail) after a couple of minor fender benders for $10,000 - no one would buy it, nor should they.  And retail does vary type to type, like with cars.  You have a better job of reselling your 10 year old Corvette for a better percentage than you do your 10 year old Hyundai Accent.    This kind of goes back to research.  A mink coat in great condition (NO tears! NO drying, NO cracking, NO shedding, NO bald spots, NO "stiff" feel when you squeeze it between your hands, No split seams or loose seams!) that originally retailed for $5-10K, will resell for $4-600.  yes, HUNDRED, NOT thousand.  However, fox? Sorry, fox decays almost as badly as rabbit, and it's so fluffy it's hard to examine unless you know furrier methods.  A little, blue fox short jacket (like you see ALL OVER ebay and etsy, too) with the ribbing that used to retail for $600-ish brand new back in the 70's/80's, you really shouldn't pay more than $50-$75 for one of those unless it's in absolute great condition and the person can guarantee that.  I can see if it's in pristine condition, the seller can guarantee it's been kept in cold storage (which slows the decay/rot process) and has it cleaned and glazed, AND it's a little different than the standard (maybe color, or the leather ribs between pelts are really tiny and infrequent, or a really nice big collar. . . something) then MAYBE it could be worth as much as $125; but it would have to be an exceptional example to be worth that much.  People asking several hundred dollars? Rip off.  They're trying to get you to buy their dented 2000 Hyundai Accent for only 20% off the original MSRP.  You wouldn't buy the car, don't buy the coat.

4. Ask questions!  Sometimes it's that the seller doesn't know and hasn't bothered to educate themselves, sometimes they just forgot to put something down.  Exact measurements are crucial in ALL kinds of vintage accessories because not only was sizing different back then (not that women's sizing makes a lick of sense currently), but people were smaller.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ONE SIZE FITS ALL.  Learn your measurements (including those of your hands and your head if you want to look at hats and gloves, they're both notoriously a couple of inches smaller than the average person today can wear) - and always ask for the proper measurements for any item.  Even check those vintage rhinestone pieces!  Many of those 30's-40's non-choker necklaces still only have 12-14" on them; and bracelets can frequently be under 6 or even 5 inches long.

Well, I guess that's enough of that for now.  I just get frustrated seeing so many people, either through ignorance or through malice trying to rip off other people.  It takes so little effort to just read and do a little study, especially with google, today, to see if you're over-pricing your stuff, or if someone's trying to sell you something that just plain isn't worth it.


I'm not really sure how to tie a plug into this little rant. . .

I have a seller I really want to plug right now, but I'm actually going to give her her own whole post, no babbling from me, because it's one of those rare etsy sellers where I've actually seen their stuff in person, and bought her products and can vouch that everything she does is *AMAZING*

All I can think of for this post is to show you an example of a GOOD seller who is selling things at a completely sane and un-gouge-y manner.  (For a reference, I've already gone through 200 pages of vintage stuff and have yet to find a good example yet. - I mean, really, the inflated hipster flea market in Williamsburg is half the price of most these items! And those items are already well over what you *SHOULD* pay)

Well, it's a bit hit-and-miss out there, but no one's going to agree all the time.  Dancing Brushes, who normally makes painted mailboxes, does have a small vintage section which seems to be right on point for price.  She even has one of those little short blue-fox jackets with the strips of leather right at $55.

Hey Darlin is another that's got a lot of very fair priced vintage pieces, but a few that seem just a bit on the high side - not crazy high, just a little, and they seem to be in the minority.  Her entire store is dedicated to vintage, so there's lot of variety.  There is one secret treasure on her shop that she seems completely unaware of, that the savvy shopper who's done their research will find quite a deal! But I'm not spoiling the secret ;-)

I'm also giving a nod to Yesterday's Resurrection for having some fun different stuff (see her "Random Awesomeness" section), and for recognizing a 90% great item with the 10% wrong kind of damage should = HUGE discount.  She has a really lovely mink coat for $35, because it has a tear in one of the pelts.  Not a split seam, a tear in a skin (normally denotes "cancer" - as in, patch it and it'll just split again on the other side of the patch, and again, and again. . .)  However, for $35, if you're good with a leather needle, you could cut it up, find the parts that haven't gotten the "cancer" yet and make some awesome recycle artsy/craftsy things! Or add it to your Renaissance Festival costume! Or any other cosplay!  I even heard of a woman who used a torn old fur coat to line a pet bed for her puppy.  The recycling options are plentiful!

And after 400 pages of entries, I think I'm calling it a night.

Good luck!

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